Commission approves wind zoning ordinanceThe Stutsman County Commission approved a zoning ordinance concerning commercial wind farms during its regular July meeting Tuesday. The ordinance passed unanimously after four amendments were made to the document prepared over the past nine months by the Stutsman County Zoning and Planning Commission.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
The Stutsman County Commission approved a zoning ordinance concerning commercial wind farms during its regular July meeting Tuesday. The ordinance passed unanimously after four amendments were made to the document prepared over the past nine months by the Stutsman County Zoning and Planning Commission.
The first change followed the recommendation of the planning commission and lowered the permit fee from $1,000 per turbine to $500 per turbine. The permit fee is paid to the county’s general fund and is used to offset costs of administrating the zoning ordinance and any legal fees incurred if the ordinance is challenged, said Noel Johnson, chief operating officer of the county and zoning administrator.
Another change substituted the word property for wind in a requirement that companies seeking a permit to place a commercial wind farm in Stutsman County furnish the zoning administrator with information about what rights they’ve acquired in the county.
A third amendment dealt with the meteorological towers used by wind power companies to research wind potential and to operate the wind farms. These towers are often less than 200 feet and are not required to have any lighting or special markings by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We ask that the line be changed so that only permanent met towers would be lighted,” said Scott Scovil, senior project developer for NextEra Energy. “Temporary towers are often in rural areas without electric service available for lighting.”
Brian Rau, an aerial applicator from Medina, presented the commission with a substitute plan for marking temporary towers with paint and high visibility balls attached to the guy wires. This option was adopted by the commission.
The fourth amendment to the zoning ordinance dealt with noise levels created by the turbines. The draft document allowed a maximum noise level of 65 decibels at the property line of the project. This was changed to require wind farm developers to meet or exceed current Environmental Protection Agency standards at any residence in the project.
“Noise is becoming more of an issue within our industry,” Scovil said. “We agree to do sound testing but don’t know where the 65 decibels comes from.”
The ordinance, with the four amendments, will take affect in 30 days.
In other action the commission approved overtime hours for county road department employees who are working on FEMA approved projects.
The commission also approved a request by Mike Zimmerman, county road superintendent, to begin filling potholes on paved county roads.
“We don’t have a plan for recycling any of these roads so the best thing we can do is patch them again,” he said.
Klose questioned if the county had enough material to do the patching.
“We’ll make it work,” Zimmerman replied.
During the Stutsman County Park Board meeting the board addressed the issue of the maintenance and funding of access roads to the cabins at the Jamestown Reservoir.
The ownership of the roads has never been determined, said Mark Klose, commission chairman.
“We need to come to see if we can come to some sort of agreement on who owns these and who is responsible,” he said. “They’ve been paying fees and taxes and we need to establish who is responsible for the roads.”
In the past individual cabin owners have taken care of much of the road maintenance.
“We’ve had people pay out of their own pockets to keep roads open that are public access,” said Ron Qual, president of the Cabin Owners Association.
Qual suggested increases in cabin site lease money be earmarked for road maintenance in the future. The Cabin Owners Association would work with the park superintendent to determine what work would be done.
The issue was tabled by the park board amid concerns the county would be taking on more road responsibilities if the issue was adopted.
“We can’t be taking on more roads when we just found out we don’t have enough for mix to fill the potholes on the roads we have,” Klose said.
The park board also took no action on road repairs in the Ypsilanti Park.
“If we can get the county to build up the road we can do the work to restore the park,” said Evelyn Rude, representing the Ypsilanti community. “We can get donations to repair it and make it a better park if we can get road access.”
The park board directed Commissioner Dale Marks to explore options for repairing the road.
The Ypsilanti Park receives $500 annually from the Stutsman County Park Board. All other expenses of the park are covered by donations from people within the community, Rude said.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org